Reassessing Your Social Media Habits
Reassessing Your Social Media Habits
It seems like every other month a new study or article comes out about social media. One says social media is keeping us isolated, another says it's bringing us together, while a third tells us social media usage is causing our bodies irreparable harm. This, however, is not one of those articles telling you that social media is bad and you should immediately delete every app off of your phone. As the church's social media manager, that would be bad for my job security.
But I have spent a lot of time thinking about these things and I have found that it is hard to strike a good balance if you don't have a plan. Since I started managing the church's accounts, I have really learned a lot. Some weeks I would obsess over one single post, while the next week I was just posting things with no real forethought, and yet there was hardly any engagement. I started reading and researching, and that's when I realized my entire approach needed to change.
I had to start with a right understanding of the purpose of social media, not just for the church's accounts, but my own as well. You might think that the goal of social media for a church is simply to announce events and invite people to church on Sundays, and you wouldn't be alone in that assumption. In the beginning, I used our social media more like an electronic bulletin board than anything else. But with seven out of every ten Americans using their social media at an average of 2 ½ hours per day, I discovered that I wanted the church's social media presence to do more than just remind everyone about upcoming events. We have a presence on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter because they represent an extension of our Sunday morning ministries, as well as an untapped mission field. Once I started thinking about our social media presence in this way, things slid into place a lot easier. After all, what is the overall purpose of social media sites like Facebook and Instagram if not to connect to the people we care about. So along with the event reminders and the church invites, I want to post things from the sermon to get you thinking about it through the week or bible verses to encourage you throughout the week. There are weeks where I still struggle with this. And just like a lot of us do when we're on our personal accounts, I'll start scrolling through other church's social media and see the fun stuff they're posting or how many people they have commenting on their posts. When I find myself falling into this comparison trap, I have to remember the purpose of social media. It's not to make flashy posts or to have the most followers, but to create a place online where people in our church and community can connect and be encouraged. The same approach can work for you if you're struggling with creating a healthy balance between real life and social media. Your social media profiles aren't meant for you to just consume other people's content or to scroll through picture after picture, but to actually talk to and share with one another.
I've found that what helps me the most is having a plan. You might not think of social media as something you need to plan to do since so much of it is mindless and habitual. But that is one of the main problems for a lot of people. How many times do we reach for our phones when we're bored and just start scrolling? How much thought do we give to a post or article that we shared on Twitter or Facebook? And do we even consider who we follow and how much we want to see from one person or another? At work, planning for social media is the majority of what I do. It is much easier in this capacity because there are resources that I can use to post things at certain times so I don't have to constantly be on my phone. There are specific times set aside for me to chat with people. In fact, one of my favorite times is Sunday mornings during the Facebook live streams. Planning for my personal social media accounts is harder, especially when it comes to putting those plans into actions. But I have noticed the difference and how much more enjoyable social media has become. Here are two specific things I do. First, I try to be very intentional with my engagement. I don't post much on my personal accounts, but I strive to make what I do post encouraging and authentic. Before I open up my Twitter or Instagram, I make up my mind to add to the conversation in a positive way. Whether it is posting something on my own profile, or commenting on someone's picture, or even responding to a friend's tweet. It can be hard because it does require more effort than just scrolling through post after post. The second thing you should plan to do is curate your own experience. I know a lot of people who complain about the things they see as they scroll through their Facebook and Instagram feeds, struggling with comparison, or getting upset by the things other people post. So I am going to go ahead and give you permission to unfollow people. This is a lesson I had to learn on Twitter. I follow a mix of journalists, news outlets, and political figures, as well as Southern Baptist leaders and writers, and they all have very strong opinions about everything. Eventually, it got to the point where I found myself becoming an angry spectator, reading through the comments on a controversial post, or getting worked up about what someone had tweeted.
"So I am going to go ahead and give you permission to unfollow people."
Then I learned to just unfollow people on Twitter who only wanted to post negative or hurtful things. I learned to unfollow people on Instagram who posted things that I didn't want to look at or caused me to struggle with comparison. I learned to mute people on my Facebook feed who posted and shared divisive and controversial things (I also muted people who posted constantly because it would get annoying). The point I'm making here is that you are in control of what you look at and engage with on your social media accounts. And if the purpose is to connect with people you care about, then don't fill your newsfeeds up with accounts that belong to people you're never going to engage with. Don't get on social media just to look at the nonsense these people put out if it only makes you angry or causes you to feel bad about yourself.
At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember about social media is that it's personal. If I'm not careful, social media, just like any church outreach, can quickly become a numbers game. Because I am trying to make sure our message is reaching as many of you as possible, it can be very easy to get caught up in interpreting analytics and figuring out how to beat the algorithms instead of creating opportunities for conversation and connecting with people throughout the week. It's the same problem I run into with my personal use of social media. There are times where I find myself just scrolling through my news feeds, skimming through tweets and comment sections or glancing at pictures without actually engaging with anything. This is what some experts call content grazing, and it's a lot like when you're sitting in front of the tv and find that you've accidentally eaten a whole bag of chips without meaning to. You've consumed a lot, but not in a healthy way. The bottom line is, social media is about people. You're meant to interact with one another, to keep up with the people you care about, to talk to them and encourage them. Nothing will ever replace the love and care that face-to-face ministry brings, but social media isn't going away anytime soon. So why not use the time we spend on there engaging and connecting with other people instead of just mindlessly scrolling through our newsfeeds. Leave a comment on someone's picture, ask a question, share a story about what God's doing in your life, and shine the light in what can often be a lonely place full of conflict, depression, and anxiety.